The Wildcats get back on the field today in Pullman, desperate to shake the sting of last Saturday's loss. The only cure for what ails the Cats right now is victories. Saturday afternoon, Washington State is the first step for Arizona to get back on track. The race for the conference title is not over. If Arizona wins out, they will be in a very good position to finally scale the mountain and reach The Bowl That Shall Not Be Named.
Today, Arizona faces the lightest test the Pac-10 has to offer. First, Arizona is a far more superior football team than Washington State. The Cougars have replaced the early 2000s Arizona teams as the Pac-10's whipping boy. Coug fans, we know how it feels. Second, do not overlook a desperate team playing at home in a weird environment.
All is not down in Pullman, however. The Cougs have showed some fight this year, and are legitimately improved when compared to last year. The results are not there in wins and losses, but the team has competed more so in 2010 than any of the previous few years. Most alarming to Cats fans, should be that WSU can throw the ball around pretty well. The Cougs rank 33rd in the nation in passing, with 252 yards per game. After last week's surgical undressing of Arizona's secondary at the steady hands of Oregon State, the Cats should be on pass-defense-hyper-alert.
Hit the jump for Smooty's keys to the game.
This game is obviously a game that Arizona should win. But should-ofs, could-ofs, and would-ofs do not get you much. [Cliche alert!] That's why they play the games. Here are today's keys:
1) Arizona needs to run the ball. Washington State is a porous 112th in the country in rushing defense. Get the ball moving downhill and come right after the Cougars.
2) Shore up the pass-defense. It has literally been beaten into the ground since last Saturday, but that is for good reason. The Wildcats' secondary was atrocious against Oregon State. The Cougars can throw the ball around. This game will be much closer than Arizona wants if they do not make adjustments in the secondary. It seems unlikely that Stoops and Co. will go away from a zone-heavy scheme, so the execution must be eleventy-billion percent better than last week.
3) Start strong. Seems pretty obvious, but the last thing Arizona wants to do is let the Cougars (and their fans) think they are in the game. Execute the game-plan early in the game, and keep the pressure on.
4) Get over last week. The loss sucked. A lot. But dwelling on it this week or the rest of the season is first-class ticket to a 7-5 record. Be the team that came out with their hair on fire against Iowa. Bring the physical game. Want to get back in the top 10? Bring the pain the rest of the year, and play some vintage Stoops/Arizona defense. Swarm baby.
Smooty's Pick: Arizona 41, Washington State 17